Long Branch Trail -
The wrong path?

♫ Everything is awesome when you're part of the plan! ♫ *

Can't get enough pavement in our parks, floodplains and stream valleys? Then here's a "plan" for much more!

Friends of Accotink Creek recently became aware of proposals to pave the currently untouched Long Branch south stream valley, promoted as fulfillment of the county Comprehensive Plan.

Other county "plans" need to be fulfilled, too, such as the Accotink Creek Watershed Plan, striving to return health to our waters; such as the Fairfax County Tree Plan, forlornly encouraging the preservation of trees while other county, commonwealth, and private interests clear them away. Why should these "plans" not take priority?

Below is an exchange of emails that lays out the situation: - January 22, 2015

(*a slightly obscure reference to the recent Lego Movie)

Let your supervisor know this is not the way to use our natural or financial resources:
Contact your Supervisor to send a message!

The temporary relief denoted in the response to the Friends of Accotink Creek letter to supervisors !

Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2015
From: Friends of Accotink Creek
To: Fairfax County Park Authority
Subject: RE: RE: Long Branch Trail Plans

All no doubt true. Yet here is an alternate perspective.

Neither habitat loss, nor invasive species, nor stormwater runoff care about our plans or preferences. Our stream valleys are already fragmented, already crisscrossed by power lines and sewer lines and gas lines, are already asked to sacrifice for every road widening proposal and parking lot expansion that comes along. One more straw on the camel's back, right?

Could it be that areas that are frequently inundated with water are by definition unsuitable for any development?

Trails in parks can hardly be considered safe and efficient parts of the transportation infrastructure when they are unlit at night and unplowed after snow. We already have 9000+ miles of streets where pedestrian and bicycle use could and should be developed.

And still there is the question of best use of resources when other parts of county government are expending many millions of tax dollars to improve the health of impaired streams and watersheds.

The Magnolia bog is not on the O'Connell property, but lies in the future path toward the Metro station on Amberleigh Homeowners Association property. There is a second Magnolia bog along the same stream, but not in the path of this trail, on Metro property. This second bog is deteriorating and in need of protection from erosion.

Friends of Accotink Creek
><((((º>`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸><((((º> “Find just one other person who cares.” ><((((º>`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸><((((º>

Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2015
From: Fairfax County Restoration Project
To: Planning Commission
Subject: RE: Long Branch Trail Plans

I thank you very much for this response. While I understand the Park Authority’s position, it troubles me that the natural resources value the undeveloped areas provide continually get minimized while the hunger for recreation continues to be fed and be the dominate focus. But this is not a new issue. Much has changed since 1972 when the plan was implemented, it might seem a good time to put value on those things we are losing in our quest for pavement everywhere. I admit to being speechless at the advocacy for pavement and its value contained in the justification here. I think is clearly demonstrates what we are up against.

Again, I thank you for your thoroughness and detail on this.

Best,...Fairfax County Restoration Project

Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2015
From: Fairfax County Park Authority
To: Friends of Accotink Creek
Subject: RE: Long Branch Trail Plans

Happy New Year,

Detail from the Countywide Trails Plan showing proposed paved trails crossing the Long Branch south stream valley where today there are none.
I enjoyed walking the Lake Accotink and Flag Run areas with you and others on the 17th.

The Park Authority reviews all rezoning applications and provides comments on them especially when there are potential impacts to parkland. In the case of the trail proposed near Long Branch Stream, on what we have been calling the O’Connell property, our comments are guided by County and Park policies and approved Countywide Plans. The provision of a 10’ wide paved trail is necessary for compliance with the Countywide Trail Plan, which is in the Transportation section of the County’s Comprehensive Plan. Because of the Countywide Trail Plan, which was first passed in 1972, Fairfax County boasts hundreds of miles of pedestrian and bicycle trails that are not found in surrounding counties. Fairfax County’s stream valley trail policy has resulted in a significant network of trails for recreation and non-motorized transportation purposes that contribute to a higher quality of life for County residents. The trails are very popular as recreational facilities and, as density increases, this trail system has become an increasingly important part of the transportation infrastructure, for instance, sections have been incorporated into the recently approved Countywide Bicycle Master Plan. People especially need safe and efficient routes to enable them to access other modes of public transportation such as bus and train stations. As pointed out below, this particular section of trail will eventually provide access to the Franconia Metro Station.

The trails are located in the stream valley because that is where the land cannot otherwise be developed and many trail users prefer natural settings. The Chesapeake Bay Act acknowledges the benefits and desirability of trails and specifically allows them to be built in the floodplain and Resource Protection Areas. Gravel and dirt trails are very difficult to maintain in areas that are frequently inundated with water, so paving is a sustainable option. Because frequent foot traffic on natural trails results in soils that become nearly 100% compacted, the addition of asphalt or concrete pavement does not change the permeability, but it does protect the surface from erosion. Because trails are linear in form, they do not collect and transport runoff, but generally maintain a sheet flow drainage pattern. Lastly, because the trails are usually under tree and leaf cover, warming effects are minimal.

Several magnolia bog locations are known in the county but not at this location. The proposed trail would connect to an existing paved trail on parkland located adjacent to the property and thereby further implement the planned Countywide trail network and support alternative transportation modes.

Please let us know if you have any further questions.

Park Planning Branch
Planning and Development Division
Fairfax County Park Authority

Sent: Friday, January 09, 2015
From: Friends of Accotink Creek
To: Fairfax County Park Authority
Subject: Long Branch Trail Plans

Thanks for taking the time to walk in Lake Accotink Park on Dec. 17th.

The discussion of the CCT paving brought to mind another issue perhaps you have some knowledge of or know whom to ask - plans for Long Branch Trail along the length of the Long Branch tributary of Accotink Creek from Cinder Bed Road to the Springfield Metro.

We became aware of these plans in this document: http://ldsnet.fairfaxcounty.gov/ldsnet/ldsdwf/4470580.PDF , which says:

"The Applicant shall construct a public 10-foot wide Type 1 Asphalt Trail within the Long Branch Floodplain/RPA (the “Long Branch Trail”)" (p. 9, Appendix 1) "... which will provide an essential pedestrian link for a future trail connection to the Franconia-Springfield Metro Station." (p.15)

This is an area where no trail exists, entirely within the floodplain, part of which harbors a rare Magnolia bog habitat. The Friends of Accotink Creek question the need for such a trail and the wisdom of applying resources to its construction that could better be used to enhance the health of our streams and watersheds.

Friends of Accotink Creek
><((((º>`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸><((((º> “Find just one other person who cares.” ><((((º>`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸><((((º>

Earlier reports on problematic trail paving: Lake Accotink Park - Pine Ridge Park

A vitual tour of Long Branch south

CONTACT Friends of Accotink Creek